Through much of history, men have held most of the world’s wealth, and as recently as 2014, women made less than 17% of the top 1% of earners in the United States. A large majority of the richest Americans are men. (These are the 30 richest Americans of all time.)
The financial success of women has often been stunted by historical legal and societal biases and prejudices. Prior to the 1848 Married Woman’s Property Act, women could not collect rent or lay claim to an inheritance. Women couldn’t legally open a bank account in the United States before the 1960s. Despite these obstacles, women have made significant contributions to society and science. These are the greatest women innovators and inventors.
The state of wealth-related gender disparity continues to improve though it is far from parity. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of female entrepreneurs increased by 21%, with some women amassing massive financial empires. Other women inherited fortunes, some strengthening their family’s companies and changing the future of the world’s wealth landscape.
To identify the world’s richest women, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Money Inc’s article The 20 Richest Women in The World As of 2022. To create its list, the site used various sources, including Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Finances Online, and Wealthy Gorilla. As with any estimates of personal wealth, there is varying information about these net worth amounts, with different figures at different sources.
The 20 richest women hail from a variety of countries, seven are from the United States, and six are from China. France only appears once on the list, but it is home to the wealthiest woman in the world, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, heiress to the L’Oreal empire. Of the 20 listed women, four gained their wealth from technology-related industries, three from real estate companies, and two from mining businesses.
The fortunes of the 20 richest women were amassed in several ways, including entrepreneurship (25%), inheritance (70%), and divorce settlements (5%). Notably, every listed self-made female billionaire is from China, many of whom came from humble beginnings, including No. 16, Zhou Qunfei, who grew up in a rural community and worked in a factory.
Many of the richest women are charitable with their wealth. Some have their own philanthropic foundations, while others actively donate to various causes.
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